"A landmark album for what was to become the whole new ethno-beat strand within the commercial category of what we now know as ‘world music’.”
- Steve Barker, BBC -
African Head Charge started life as a studio recording project in 1981 when the percussion talents of Bonjo Iyabinghi Noah combined with the studio wizardry of Adrian Sherwood. Bonjo had come to England from a Rasta camp in the hills of Clarendon, Jamaica. From as early as he can remember he studied and played percussion, learning not only Rasta/Nyabinghi drums but also African and Afro Cuban rhythms. He also loved to experiment, which made working with Sherwood perfect. Working with tape loops, manipulated and vari-speeded 1/4 inch tape that was re-recorded back to the multi-track tape, reverbs and delays, this was then applied to the performances of the musicians. And so the first psychedelic African dub LP My Life In A Hole In The Ground was created.
It was not until the late 1980s that African Head Charge made its first appearance as a live band, taking place at the University of London (ULU) and instantly a sold out success. What followed in the next few years gave them semi-legendary status, with performances from Glastonbury and the wonderful Essential music festival, to visits to Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
Three more largely experimental studio albums followed throughout the 80’s…Environmental Studies, Drastic Season and Off The Beaten Track(1986) which is both a seminal recording in the progressive use of sound-bite technology and an excellent example of the integration of live instrumentation and programmed music. Steve Barker of BBC radio’s long-running On The Wire programme commeneted: “Not only is it a departure for On-U Sound, but a landmark album for what was to become the whole new ethno-beat strand within the commercial category of what we now know as ‘world music’.”
1991 saw the release of Songs Of Praise.Their LP ‘Songs of Praise‘, seen as one of their masterpieces. It featured religious chants set to an African dub backdrop of percussion and demonstrated another evolution in their sound. It was followed by the complimentary In Pursuit Of Shashamane Land album in 1993.
In 1995 Bonjo left London to start a new life in Ghana and it was not until 2003 that he made a return visit to London. The following year saw the creation of Visions Of A Psychedelic Africa.
The first African Head Charge studio work since 2005’s Vision of a Psychedelic Africa, After taking time out to raise family in Ghana Bonjo returned to the UK for the release of Voodoo of the Godsent described by the label as being ‘the culmination of thirty years of endeavour.’
The album is essentially the continuation of a process that has seen both creative powerhouses expanding and transforming the landscape of contemporary reggae into new and exciting shapes. In 2015 ON-U Sounds put out vinyl reissues of the first four African Head Charge albums – My Life In A Hole In The Ground, Environmental Studies, Drastic Season and Off The Beaten Track. They have also followed this up with an 8-track vinyl LP of unreleased tracks and version excursions from that same early-80s period: Return Of The Crocodile. All the music has been lovingly transferred from the original decaying tapes and sequenced for release by On-U archivist Patrick Dokter.
In 2019 Warp Records have confirmed vinyl re-issues of Songs of Praise & In Pursuit of the Shashamane Land as well as a 5 CD Boxset & first time vinyl pressings of Vision Of A Psychedelic Africa & Voodoo Of The Godsent!!! To coincide with this epic set of releases African Head Charge are getting ready to grace stages stages around the world and are currently preparing an epic NEW live show featuring an original line-up of 6-8 world-star performers, fusing together djembes, guitars, drums, keys and vocals with heavy electronic sampling and audio viuals. The collective use this blend of live and electronica to generate an intoxicating soundscape of reggae-inflected drumming, visceral vocals and bottomless, thrumming bass-lines that truly reach to the heart of your being.
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